California Adopts Workplace Safety Standards Protecting Nighttime Ag Workers

June 26, 2020

California has adopted new workplace safety standards to protect agricultural employees who work at night.

These are reportedly the first lighting standards in the nation written specifically to protect agricultural workers who harvest, operate vehicles and do other jobs between sunset and sunrise.

“Agricultural workers face additional hazards at night when visibility is limited,” Cal/OSHA Chief Doug Parker said in a statement. “These common-sense standards will enable workers to see hazards and also make them visible to operators of tractors and other equipment.”

The new standards, which will be enforced by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA), were approved June 3 by the Office of Administrative Law and will become effective July 1.

Agricultural employers are now required to evaluate each outdoor worksite to determine required lighting levels, implement protective measures to improve the visibility of workers by operators of farm equipment and vehicles, and ensure workers have adequate lighting depending on operation, area, or task they are assigned. Supervisors must conduct safety meetings at the beginning of every shift to inform workers about their surroundings and high traffic areas.

The standards will be found in title 8, section 3441 (Operation of Agricultural Equipment) and section 3449 (Outdoor Agricultural Operations During Hours of Darkness).

The Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board began the rulemaking in 2014 after receiving a request from Cal/OSHA and the public to amend Section 3441 to add requirements for outdoor worksite lighting and personal protective equipment after at least one agricultural worker was killed and others were seriously injured during nighttime operations.

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